St. Jude has been committed to treating and curing sickle cell disease since its opening in 1962.

From birth to adulthood, we help patients live with sickle cell disease,
while we continue to research new cures and better long-term care.

Sickle Cell Disease and Related Genetic Conditions

About 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease, an inherited disorder that results in red blood cells becoming hard and sickle-shaped. The shape disrupts the normal flow of blood in the body, which can cause painful and sometimes life-threatening side effects. Learn more about the different genetic conditions related to sickle cell disease:

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is a group of blood disorders that prevent the normal flow of blood in the body because of the effect on the hemoglobin within red blood cells.

  • Hemoglobin is the main ingredient in red blood cells, helping them carry oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body.
  • Normal red blood cells have hemoglobin A, which helps keep red blood cells soft and round so they flow easily through small blood vessels.
  • People with sickle cell disease have mostly hemoglobin S (also called sickle hemoglobin) in their red blood cells.
    • Hemoglobin S can form hard fibers inside the red cells, causing them to reshape into sickle (banana) shape. Abnormally shaped red blood cells cannot move through blood vessels easily and at times are blocked from delivering oxygen to some body tissues.
  • Sickle cell disease is always inherited (passed down in families).
    • When one parent has sickle cell disease and the other carries only one of the abnormal genes, such as hemoglobin S, their child has a 1 in 2 (50 percent) chance of having sickle cell disease.
    • When both parents carry a sickle cell gene, but are not sick themselves, their child has a 25 percent (1 in 4) chance of having sickle cell disease.

Sickle Cell Disease in the Clinic

Doctors and researchers work together to learn how to best treat children and manage their sickle cell disease, including sickle cell anemia and other disorders.

Bridging the gap between treatment and research, St. Jude scientists are conducting a study to help uncover insights into the long-term effects of sickle cell disease, including sickle cell anemia and other disorders. In addition, St. Jude will sequence the genomes of 1,000 children with sickle cell disease to understand why some patients experience more severe symptoms.

The St. Jude Sickle Cell Clinical Research and Intervention Program

The SCCRIP study helps scientists understand how sickle cell disease progresses and how genetic changes affect disease severity.

Latest Sickle Cell Developments

St. Jude has been instrumental in developing recent initiatives to improve the care of patients and advance research in sickle cell disease.

St. Jude-Methodist Sickle Cell Disease Transition Clinic

To help expand research and clinical care for adult sickle cell disease patients in Memphis, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has formed a collaboration with Methodist Healthcare. We have developed new infrastructures to strengthen clinical research, generate new therapies and provide the best possible care for adult sickle cell patients, many of whom have received care as pediatric patients at St. Jude.

St. Jude-Methodist Sickle Cell Disease Transition Clinic

Sickle Cell Disease Implementation Program

National Institutes of Health funding will allow physicians and researchers to help sickle cell patients in Memphis and surrounding communities improve access and adherence to hydroxyurea treatment. This program, announced in 2016, comprises a team from St. Jude, the University of Memphis, Methodist University Hospital, Baptist Memorial Hospital, Vanderbilt University and the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee. These institutions will jointly develop, assess and integrate mobile health application to manage hydroxyurea treatments in the patient community.

Sickle Cell Disease Implementation Program

Sickle Cell Data Available for Researchers

The Sickle Cell Disease Portal offers robust genomic and clinical data from cohorts of individuals with sickle cell disease. This data, offered on St. Jude Cloud, is easily and securely available to academic researchers. Genetic modifiers strongly influence outcomes in sickle cell disease. The goal of the Sickle Cell Disease Portal is to promote global collaborative efforts to understand the genetic underpinnings of the disease and develop better therapies.

Sickle Cell Disease in the Lab

In the lab, St. Jude scientists have successfully used CRISPR gene editing to fix blood cells isolated from patients with sickle cell disease. In sickle cell patients, abnormal adult hemoglobin causes red blood cells to become hard and sickle shaped.

By editing the genome of the blood-forming cells with this innovative technique, researchers prompted the production of healthy fetal hemoglobin in a way that mimicked a harmless condition called hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin (HPFH). Sickle cell patients with this condition tend to have less severe symptoms. The next step for researchers will be to look for the safest and most effective way to use this method in patients.

Meet Our Patients

Living with Sickle Cell Disease: Shaniya's story
Diagnosed with sickle cell disease, Shaniya came to St. Jude when she was 5 years old. Now 16, she strives to be a normal teenager, one not defined by her disease. Teens with sickle cell face challenges when transitioning from adolescent to adult care. St. Jude is working to reverse that trend with education, research and partnerships with adult care facilities.

Your gift means families like Shaniya's never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all they should worry about is helping their child live.

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